Long Look Garden

Well it was hot and steamy in Des Moines on my recent visit. My trip to the capital of Iowa was prompted by meetings with a prominent grocery retailer headquartered on the west side of that city. Despite the weather, it was nice to be back in Des Moines, this time to meet with new folks and reconnect with a number of executives whom I have known for years. The business meetings went well and the “reconnections” were real treats. It’s fun to get to an age where numerous business relationships have evolved into true friendships, allowing us to connect on a very different level than solely the immediate commercial issues at hand.

After a very full day, I returned to my hotel, wrapped up few emails, and threw on my sneakers for a long walk to get some exercise. Downtown Des Moines has a very well constructed network of walking trails that stretch along the rivers connecting a number of city parks together.

With a map in hand, I hit the trails. I crossed the swollen Des Moines River and headed south. It was a hot and sunny evening and as I walked along the trail I realized that I was heading towards the Baseball Park that is the home of the Iowa Cubs. There was a game that night and folks were coming to the park from across the city. There really is something quintessentially American to hear the buzz of a crowd gathering for a ball game on a hot summer night in the heart of the Midwest! I didn’t have time to go in and watch the game but I did linger for a few minutes at an outfield fence to watch the stands fill. Then, I returned to my trail map and my walk. After about an hour I had made my way back to the hotel but wasn’t quite ready to dive back into the unread emails. On I went across the street to continue on the trail and immediately entered a garden. Pinks, yellows, purples…flowers of many shades were on both sides of the path and for about a hundred yard the path wound its way through this beautiful garden on the banks of the Des Moines River. Unexpected beauty to say the least!

At the end of the garden was a small plaque that announced that the garden was sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a seed company based in Iowa. It referenced that this was the “Long Look Garden,” honoring its long held business philosophy of taking a “long look” at business opportunities, challenges and decisions. Enough said, I quickly returned to the hotel to find out more! What follows is copied from the Pioneer Hi-Bred website:

The Pioneer way of doing business

The “Long Look,” originally written in 1952, reflects our business philosophy, one that had evolved since our incorporation in 1926. While we have added and subtracted many products and services from our core seed corn business over the years, our “Long Look” business philosophy has remained constant.

  1. We strive to produce the best products on the market.
  2. We deal honestly and fairly with our employees, customers, seed growers, sales force, business associates and shareholders.
  3. We advertise and sell our products vigorously, but without misrepresentation.
  4. We give helpful management suggestions to our customers to assist them in making the greatest possible profit from our products.

This summary of tried and true business principles, now 58 years in practice, deeply ran true to me. Regardless of industry, category, or function, these four elements are applicable broadly yesterday, today and into the future. I immediately thought about how to share these with my team and how to translate them to our current business challenges. Take a minute and think about how the “Long Look” can apply to your business/leadership challenges.

On a final note, I want to emphasize a recurring theme of my blog essays. Once again from an unexpected source – a walk through a garden on a steamy summer evening in Des Moines – I found a moment of inspiration that made an impact on me and a connection to my current business challenges. It’s rarely convenient to take a few moments (never mind an hour for a walk) away from the pressing nature of business, but I continue to be amazed at how much there is to learn when I slow down enough for a moment of reflection that might include reading a plaque on the banks of the Des Moines river.